Utility Safety Culture Assessments Are Ahead For California Electric And Gas Utilities

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a new Order Instituting Rulemaking to Develop Safety Culture Assessments for Electric and Natural Gas Utilities. Following the fatal explosion of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company pipeline in San Bruno in 2010, a large-scale natural gas leak at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in 2015, and recent catastrophic wildfires caused by utility infrastructure, the CPUC has undertaken incident investigations and broader reviews of utility safety practices. In recent years the California Legislature has also included safety customer assessments among the requirements mandated by Assembly Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 901. And the Governor’s Office has issued a report titled Wildfires and Climate Change: California’s Energy Future directing the CPUC to hold the utilities accountable for safety prioritization.

The new rulemaking proceeding will provide a forum for implementing statutory safety assessment requirements and the findings in the most recent Governor’s report, and complement wildfire-related assessments conducted by the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety (OEIS). The scope of the proceeding will include:

  • Defining safety culture.
  • Elements in a framework of safety culture assessments of electric and gas utilities and gas storage operators.
  • Process, frequency and schedule.
  • Coordination with the utilities’ Risk Assessment and Mitigation Phase Applications and General Rate Cases.
  • Metrics for evaluating the efficacy of the safety culture assessment.
  • Methodologies to ensure results are comparable across utilities and measurable over time.
  • Scope (which utilities and operators should be included) and consideration of how to effectively oversee the safety culture of large and small utilities.
  • Whether the CPUC should require utilities to adopt specific practices.
  • Whether and how to adopt a maturity model for safety culture assessments.
  • Accountability metrics.
  • How to complement and avoid duplication of other mandated safety culture assessments.

Interested parties are invited to file comments regarding the above, and any other issues deemed appropriate for this proceeding, the prioritization or sequencing of topics and activities, and coordination with other proceedings.

Opening comments are due November 29, reply comments December 29.

Contact: Andy Brown or Jed Gibson